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      They're made out of meat https://web.archive.org/web/20190501130711/http://www.terrybisson.com/theyre-made-out-of-meat-2/
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Archive for the 'Internet' Category

Goodbye Twitter?

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 14th January 2013

No Twitter logoJon Newton writes:

Goodbye Twitter

Twitter […] has become a hard-core marketing vehicle, with all that implies.
[…]
With several hicups and false I’ve been posting on identi.ca for quite a while; but I can’t see any point in continuing with Twitter.

On identi.ca I can at least be fairly certain people are following because they’re genuinely interested 🙂

That’s a principled, honourable, and brave move.

I’m as strong an advocate of Free, Libre, and Open Source Software as anyone, but I’m still making use of Twitter because of the network effects — there are so many people I find interesting on Twitter that the pain of using it is less than the benefit. On the other hand, the people I find interesting don’t use Identi.ca because there aren’t enough other interesting people there…

Of course, I’m not seeing much of the promotional material on Twitter because I use other software such as Pidgin and Mustard to view the messages. More F/LOSS applications to keep me safe from commercialism.

Another reason I probably won’t abandon Twitter altogether is because I’m also an advocate of keeping a (low) profile on the mainstream services (such as Facebook and Google Plus), simply to prevent others from acquiring my username and hijacking my identity. So I only post to Identi.ca, but Identi.ca sends those messages to Twitter automatically, and again I don’t have to deal with Twitter’s rampant commercialism.

Hopefully your good example will encourage me (and others) to take the next step and reject Twitter completely. You’ve given me something to think about.

–Bob.

No Twitter Logo is based on twitter-logo by The Daring Librarian, modified by Bob Jonkman. Used and re-licensed under CC BY-SACreative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic — CC BY-SA 2.0.

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Posted in FLOSS, Internet, Microblogging, Social Media | Comments Off on Goodbye Twitter?

IxQuick and DuckDuckGo, alternative search engines

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 30th April 2012

Screenshot of IxQuick in Mozilla Firefox

IxQuick search engine

A friend mentioned that

I’m concerned about Google having a monopoly on search, and tracking their users for search terms, and much more.

So use another search engine.

I’ve been using IxQuick on-and-off for years, and almost exclusively for the last six months: https://ixquick.com/

First, I set the default Search Bar plugin to IxQuick from one of the many selections at the Mycroft project .

Then I also set Firefox’s address bar to do keyword searches on IxQuick:

  1. type about:config in the address bar
  2. Acknowledge the potential for damaging your system
  3. Search for the keyword.URL entry
  4. Change it to https://ixquick.com/do/metasearch.pl?query=

Now any keywords you type into the address bar will be looked up by IxQuick.

IxQuick is a metasearch engine, which searches All the Web, Digg, Qkport, Ask/Teoma, EntireWeb, Wikipedia, Bing, Gigablast, Yahoo, Cuil and Open Directory. Almost everything except Google. IxQuick claims that it does NOT collect or share your personal information, and keeps logs no longer than 48 hours.

All in all, I’ve been very pleased with the results IxQuick provides.

Screenshot of Firefox displaying the DuckDuckGo home page

DuckDuckGo search engine

DuckDuckGo (https://duckduckgo.com/) is another alternative search engine that claims it does not collect or share personal information.

To put DuckDuckGo in the Search Bar, browse to the DuckDuckGo site, pull down the list of search engines, then click on “Add DuckDuckGo”.

To set up DuckDuckGo as the default search engine for the address bar:

  1. type about:config in the address bar
  2. Acknowledge the potential for damaging your system
  3. Search for the keyword.URL entry
  4. Change it to https://duckduckgo.com/?q=

I haven’t used DuckDuckGo much at all, but I’ve only heard favourable reports…

Note that there are many other references to Google in the about:config settings, so if you make only these changes you’re still not Google Free.

–Bob.

Screenshot images created by Bob Jonkman, and released to the Public Domain

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Posted in Google, Google Free, Internet, privacy, search engines | 3 Comments »

Google Spyware considered harmful

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 16th April 2012

Google wordmark in a "No" symbol

No Google

One day I was asked:

Hi IT Peeps,

I was wondering if I would cause major havoc if I downloaded google chrome? Will it mess anything up? Any recommendations?

My answer:

What problem are you trying to solve? What’s the question that gets answered “Install Google Chrome”?

Google the company is becoming ever more pervasive in our Internet lives. Google’s business is not providing a search engine for free; Google’s business is to sell our demographic information to advertisers. They gather that demographic data by luring us in with relevant search results, free e-mail and slick looking browsers.

Google collects personal information, including information that was voluntarily given to Google (for instance, by signing up for GMail or Google Plus; posting a video on YouTube), information that was collected anonymously (eg. when you perform a Google search or watch a YouTube video and Google records the search terms, your IP address, and leaves a cookie on your computer), and information that Google collected as it does its web indexing (comments you’ve left on a newspaper site, Tweets you’ve made, messages you’ve posted to public mailing lists). Google then correlates all this data based on IP address, cookies, e-mail addresses, your name, geo-location (finding out where you are based on your WiFi connection or IP address).

As of 1 March 2012 Google changed its privacy policies to combine data mining from all its holdings – the search engine, YouTube, Picasa, Google Maps, Google Plus, Google Mail, &c. I didn’t think too much of that, since I had thought that Google had always aggregated its data. According to an article I read[1] that’s actually a new development. Google used to keep all its data mining separate, in fact, kept it so separate that it didn’t even correlate its adwords between different messages in GMail. With the new privacy policy that’s all changed, and everything is now aggregated, correlated, and retained to be sold to the highest bidder. Google says we’ll never sell your personal information or share it without your permission, but you grant that permission every time you agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies when you sign up for Google’s services.

Remember the Google Toolbar? Every search request, every URL, and every local file you opened in a browser with the Google toolbar installed was sent to the Google servers. There was a report of someone who opened confidential company documents with IE and the Google toolbar, only to find those reports cached on Google’s servers. Google Chrome is far more invasive than a mere toolbar.

Google Chrome does not have the same set of security-related add-ons that Firefox offers. For your best privacy protection and security, use Firefox with the NoScript, AdBlock Plus, HTTPS-Everywhere and Force-TLS extensions. See my article on Browser Security for details on installing and configuring them.

–Bob, who will be getting fitted for a new tinfoil hat at lunch…

Footnote 1: I wish I knew what article that was. To my recollection, the author said he wouldn’t trust Google with his data again. He had visited the Googleplex some years earlier, and was told how Google kept the data from its different projects in separate silos, so that profile aggregation was next to impossible. Data silos were so extensive that although one GMail message might trigger certain AdWords, there was no tracking between messages. I read the article in March of 2012; if you can provide me with a link let me know in the comments.

Update 8 Nov 2012: A similar quote about data silos from Google’s Vic Gundotra appears in the CNN article Google exec: We won’t break users’ trust.


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Posted in considered harmful, Google, Google Free, Internet, privacy | 2 Comments »

Browser Security

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 30th November 2011

Browser vulnerabilities are a common contributor to computer malware. Attacks have become so sophisticated that just viewing a Web page with an unsecured browser can infect your computer with malware. Fortunately, there are settings and extensions that will make surfing the Web a safer experience.

Browser selection

This article deals only with securing Mozilla Firefox. Firefox offers an wide selection of extensions that can help secure the browser. Google Chrome, Opera and Safari also offer some extensions, but I have not tested them. Microsoft Internet Explorer appears to support Add-ons, but Version 8 offers none for browsing security.

Internet Explorer is particularly vulnerable. In part, this is because IE is by far the most popular browser, and so it suffers the most attacks. Because it is the most popular browser it is especially targeted for attack by malusers. And compounding the problem, Microsoft has been slow to acknowledge vulnerabilities in its products, never mind fixing them.

Privacy settings

Privacy is not so much about keeping your personal information secret, but about keeping control over your personal information. If I choose to tell Facebook my name, age and browsing habits that’s OK, but my privacy is violated if Facebook finds out about my browsing habits if I don’t tell Facebook myself.

Malware is pretty good at correlating information when you least expect it. For example, you may keep your browsing history confidential, but allow Javascript to change the layout of your screen. To do so Javascript reads elements of the Document Object Model (DOM), including the colour of text. But if a link is coloured purple instead of blue, then Javascript can figure out that you’ve visited that link before, violating your privacy settings for browsing history.

To see your Firefox Privacy settings select Tools, Options and click the Privacy icon.

screenshot of Firefox Privacy dialogue

Settings for Firefox Privacy options

For maximum protection check Tell Web sites I do not want to be tracked and select Firefox will: Never remember history. But having to type in all your passwords and data every time you access the same web sites can be inconvenient, so I actually browse with the setting Firefox will: Use custom settings for history, leaving Always use private browsing mode unchecked. It is usually safe to have Accept cookies from sites turned on, with Accept third-party cookies turned off and Keep until: I close Firefox selected. Custom settings for Clear history when Firefox closes has only Cookies and Active Logins checked:

Screenshot of Clearing History dialoge

Firefox Clearing History

Security settings

To see Firefox Security settings select Tools, Options, then click on the Security icon.

Screenshot of the Security tab in Options

Screenshot - Firefox, Tools, Options, Security

For maximum security, make sure all the checkboxes are checked.

Warn me when sites try to install add-ons will avoid drive-by infections, which is when merely browsing a Web page with Javascript enabled can launch malicious processes. This will at least give you a warning.

Block reported attack sites and Block reported web forgeries do add some additional protection from malware sites, but potentially at some expense of your privacy. Every 30 minutes Firefox downloads a list of malware sites. If you browse to such a site then Firefox will check for that particular site immediately before blocking it. It uses Google’s malware list to do so, and will send Google’s cookies when checking.

You can test for phishing protection at the phishing test site and for malware protection at the malware test site.

Use a master password will encrypt the list of passwords stored on your computer. This is mostly useful if your computer should get stolen or left on the bus, but without the Master Password it might be possible for a malware site to retrieve your list of passwords through some (as yet unknown) vulnerability.

Security Extensions

Firefox’s extensive collection of extensions (Add-ons) make it my preferred browser.

NoScript

NoScript prevents Javascript from executing on specific web sites.

Javascript determines the fourth characteristic of a web page (Content, Semantics, Presentation, Behaviour). A well-designed web site will degrade gracefully — if the browser cannot manage the page layout (Presentation), it should still be able to identify the components of a page such as paragraphs and headers (Semantics), and still show the Content. Even if the browser can’t identify a paragraph from a heading (Semantics), it should always show the content. Javascript is responsible for the behaviour of a page. This is what makes Google Maps’ slippy map work when you drag the mouse cursor across the page. That behaviour degrades gracefully, so that when you view Google Maps with Javascript disabled you can still see a static map. Sadly, many web sites today are designed so that Javascript is required to show the content. NoScript addresses this problem by selectively allowing you to enable Javascript for those sites that you trust.

NoScript has expanded its scope so that it now also checks for Cross-Site Scripting vulnerabilities, Application Boundary violations, and other esoteric security concerns.

Adblock Plus

Adblock Plus removes ads. That’s wonderful all by itself, but there’s more! When ads are blocked, you don’t waste any bandwidth downloading them. But there’s more! The hits from Web Bugs aren’t recorded and tracked. And blocked ads from third-party sites can no longer query third-party cookies, or enable cross-site scripting attacks.

When you install Adblock Plus you’ll be asked to subscribe to one of the pre-defined block lists. I usually choose EasyList or Adblock.org.

ForceTLS

ForceTLS requests an encrypted page (https) when the server supports it. The functionality is now built into Firefox directly, but ForceTLS still provides a handy dialogue box to add Web sites for servers that don’t automatically switch to https.

HTTPS Everywhere

HTTPS Everywhere forces a Web pages to use https, and can change the URL for those sites that use different URL paths for their secure content. HTTPS Everywhere only works for Web sites in its Preferences list:

Screenshot of HTTPS-Everywhere preferences

HTTPS-Everywhere preferences

HTTPS Everywhere is not maintained on the Mozilla Add-ons web site, so you have to download it from the EFF directly. Firefox will ask you to verify that you want to install an add-on from an unknown site. Click on the Allow button to install the HTTPS Everywhere add-on.

Installing the HTTPS-Everywhere extension in Firefox

Keeping Updated

Security is not a single solution to a single problem. It is a constantly evolving process that tries to keep up with constantly evolving attacks. It is important to keep everything up-to-date.

Updating the Browser

To ensure that the browser and all its extensions stay up-to-date check all the boxes on the Tools, Options, Advanced, Update screen:

Screenshot of the Firefox Update screen

Updating Firefox

Updating Extensions

To update the Firefox extensions select Tools, Add-ons, click on the Tools for all add-ons button, and make sure there is a check mark beside Update Add-ons Automatically. If there is no check mark then click on Update Add-ons Automatically, and you should also perform updates manually by selecting Check for Updates. If there are any updates a View all updates link will be displayed, click on it, then click on the Update now button for each add-on in the list.

Screenshot of the Firefox Add-ons Update button

Screenshot showing the 'Update' menu

Updating the Operating System

Finally, no amount of browser security will keep you safe if your operating system is not safe. Be sure to activate Windows Updates (or Linux Updates, or AppleMac Updates), and keep your Anti-virus software, firewall, spam filters and other security software up-to-date.

–Bob.

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Posted in Internet, security | 3 Comments »

Four things to improve your search result rankings

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 26th December 2010

A bottle of juice with a Google label

Google Juice by Johannes P. Osterhoff

Now there’s a spammy title for you!

 

There are many people who specialize in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). They claim to be able to improve your rank on search engines, but here are some common-sense tips you can apply yourself.

1

The best thing to maintain good page rank with ANY search engine is to have good content. This isn’t something an SEO company can do for you — you have to provide that content yourself. Repeating someone else’s content may bring you a few hits, but the search engines will quickly determine that the original site has hosted that content longer, and rank them higher.

Google is additionally funny in that they will count the number of sites that link to you, assuming that if you warrant many links, you must have something the Google customers want. If you switch Hosting Providers or change to a different domain name then anyone linking to the old domain name may have (temporarily) dead links. That will drain your Googlejuice right quick. If you have multiple domain names with the same content then the Google page rank is diluted. Better to have one domain with 1000 links than two domains with 500 each. You should ask your Hosting Provider to set up “301 redirected permanently” for any non-primary domains. Google is smart enough to figure out that http://www.example.com is the same as http://example.com, but I prefer no www. Why? See http://no-www.org/.

2

The second best thing you can do is to have valid HTML for all your Web pages. Sadly, many sites fail badly on that account (including this one). Have a look at the W3C HTML validator for this home page. As I write this, this blog’s home page has 29 errors. That will drain my Googlejuice right quick. If a search engine can’t parse HTML it won’t index content, or rank the page up high. That counts for all search engines, not just Google. I’ve written about this in Invalid HTML Considered Harmful. There are consultants that can help you correct invalid HTML; you may know one or two already 🙂

3

The third-best thing is to make sure your pages are accessible. If your site works well on alternative browers (PDAs, game consoles, cell phones) and assistive devices (braille readers, text-to-speech readers) and plain text browsers like Lynx then it’s a pretty sure thing that search engines can index the content too. Avoid Javascript, but if you use Javascript make sure that content delivery isn’t Javascript dependent — make plenty of use of the <noscript> tag. Don’t use non-indexable technologies like Flash, PDFs, Silverlight, or ActiveX. Google is getting pretty good at indexing PDFs and even Flash, but you’ll get better results with plain HTML. I’ve never seen a PDF that wouldn’t work as well-designed HTML. Non-indexable technologies won’t drain your Googlejuice, but they do nothing to boost it either.

4

The fourth best thing you can do is not play jiggery-pokery with hidden text, irrelevant keywords, cloaking, “sneaky” redirects, comment spam on other sites, or fake affiliate sites. If you try to outsmart search engines’ ranking algorithms to artificially boost your ranking, you may succeed for a few days or weeks before you’re banned altogether. That will drain your Googlejuice right quick. Besides, jiggery-pokery is a lot of hard work, better spent creating good content.

Update 1 March 2011: Told you so!

–Bob.

Google Juice by Johannes P. Osterhoff is used under a Creative Commons by-nc-nd license.

Posted in Accessibility, blogging, Internet, Javascript, Search Engine Optimization, search engines, valid html | 5 Comments »

Stop Usage Based Billing – comment to the CRTC

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 9th December 2010

Stop Usage Based Billing logo

Today is the deadline for submitting comments to the CRTC on the proposed tariff increases for Usage Based Billing. These are the comments I submitted:

I am opposed to the current Usage Based Billing proposal.

 

The cost of Telecom in Canada is already among of the highest in the world. Allowing Usage Based Billing will only increase that cost for both consumers and business, especially the third-party Internet providers. Canadian-based business is already looking for foreign ownership for the telecom sector; don’t price those Canadian businesses out of the market by increasing the rates for telecom services.

 

I understand that the carriers feel the need to increase the capacity of their infrastructure, but they have provided no evidence of the current capacities or bandwidth usage, making me wonder if these extra charges are justified. I do believe that billing based on usage (akin to electricity or water use) is a fair way to charge for Internet use, but only if it is the only charge. Carriers must not charge for bandwidth AND set bandwidth caps with overage fees. It cost no more to deliver the first gigabyte in a billing cycle than it costs to deliver the 60th.

 

Also, there must be a clear separation of bandwidth providers and content providers. To the consumer, it certainly seems like the carriers are raising the cost of providing streaming media such as NetFlix, while at the same time introducing such services themselves. It certainly gives the perception of anti-competitive billing, trying to force NetFlix out of the market by making it too expensive.

 

–Bob Jonkman
6 James St.
Elmira ON Canada
+1-519-635-9413

(CRTC Comment Reference number: 139217 )

Feel free to use any of these comments in your own submission!

Posted in Bell Canada, CRTC, Internet, Rogers, usage based billing | Comments Off on Stop Usage Based Billing – comment to the CRTC

What to do about compromised Hotmail passwords

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 18th November 2010

autoroute à emails

autoroute à emails by Biscarotte

I administer a number of e-mail systems, and I’ve been seeing a lot of spam coming from Hotmail accounts recently. And both friends and clients have been telling me that it’s not them who are sending spam from Hotmail (and ending up in my e-mail systems), their accounts have been hacked. One person asked me:

Is it just Hotmail? What else could I use? Can’t I just change my password?

Changing passwords is only an effective solution if the account was compromised by social engineering, eg. the legitimate user giving out the password in a phishing attempt or other direct means, or if a simple password was guessed or cracked.

There is evidence that Hotmail and Yahoo’s password recovery mechanism is flawed (eg. the Sarah Palin breach), so that malusers can acquire a new password for an account. I don’t think this is happening, because victims are not reporting being locked out of their accounts. Of course, if the service merely sends out the current password then this may be what is happening, and no amount of password complexity will protect the account.

If the passwords were compromised by an automated password cracker then I would expect only simple passwords to be breached, and accounts with strong passwords would be safe. I do not know what kind of passwords were in use by the people who have compromised accounts, but it is likely they were simple passwords.

While I have no evidence, I think the current rash of breaches is due to a more systematic attack by URL munging, or fuzzing the inputs on a POST request, or some other attack vector. These attacks do not require an authenticated login, and in that case no amount of password complexity will provide security either.

I haven’t heard of similar compromised accounts in Gmail, so that may be a suitable alternative for now. I’ve been recommending that people use the mail accounts provided by their ISPs, largely so that they can make use of the ISP’s technical support if their accounts do get compromised. And, of course, if they’re paying their ISP for a mail account then there may be immunity from liability (“My mail account was compromised and I was paying my ISP for security, so all this spam is their fault”).

–Bob.

Update 5 Feb 2012: I retract the first sentence in the last paragraph. E-mail Administrator friends have been telling me that Google Mail is just as vulnerable as Hotmail and Yahoo. Having just read “Hacked!” in The Atlantic I’m convinced the problem of compromised mail accounts is worse than I thought, and that no online providers (especially the “free” ones) adequately protect the e-mail of their users.

autoroute à emails by Biscarotte is used under a Creative Commons by-sa-v2.0 license.

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Posted in email, Internet, spam | 1 Comment »

Transcript: The iTax & Fair Dealing Search Engine’s Jesse Brown interviews Charlie Angus

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 3rd April 2010

The Charlie Angus Interview
Jesse Brown’s Search Engine, Podcast #35: The Charlie Angus Interview

Jesse Brown has another great Search Engine interview on copyright, this time with Charlie Angus. Search Engine is released with a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial- Share Alike 2.5 Canada License, so I can post this transcript which is released under the same license (and that won’t hurt Jesse’s feelings).

You can Listen to the podcast while you read the transcript.


[00:00] [theme music]

[00:15] Jesse Brown: Charlie Angus, as many of you know, is the NDP Member of Parliament who’s been the sole voice of reason in Parliament on digital issues. He’s the NDP’s copyright critic, and he’s really the only guy who’s asking tough question, loud questions, and the right questions when Jim Prentice tabled Bill C61 a couple of years back, and since then he’s been the only guy in Parliament trying to shed some
light on the ongoing secret ACTA negotiations. None of this, however, has gotten Charlie Angus a whole lot of press outside of, uh, geeky press like this. What has gotten Charlie Angus in the papers, nationally, in a big way, is a recent Private Member’s Bill he just introduced that proposes to extend the blank media levy to MP3 players. Which means that the tax we pay every time we buy a blank CD or mini-disk as we do all the time these days, would, under Angus’s
proposal, be extended to MP3 players like iPods. The media is calling it the iTax and Charlie Angus’s opponents, notably Heritage Minister James Moore, have seized upon it. And Charlie Angus has been taking something of a beating for putting forth a piece of legislation that his critcs say could result in a 75 dollar tax fee for consumers any time they buy
anything from an MP3 player to a laptop.

[01:34] Now, the outrage over the iTax has obscured another piece of legislation that Charlie Angus has introduced. It is a proposal to extend the notion of Fair Dealing in Canada, a principle you’ve heard a lot about on this program. Of course, in the States they have Fair Use exceptions which govern the circumstances in which copyright doesn’t apply. We have Fair Dealing here in Canada, it’s much more restrictive, and it’s one of the chief things that copyright reform activists have been asking for. Well, Charlie Angus has introduced a proposal to do so. But it isn’t something we’ve heard much about. I recently had a chance to correct that, and to get some clarity on this so-called iTax when I interviewed Charlie Angus in person in Toronto. Here’s how that sounded.

[02:16] [music fades]

[02:19] JB: Hi Charlie.

[02:20] Charlie Angus: Hi, how are you?

[02:22] JB: Pretty good. So explain to me the iTax.

[02:25] CA: Well, this has been a classic Canadian compromise for some time, something that the major, you know, CRIA, major record labels have never really liked. But, it was a recognition that, listen, people are copying music all the time. How do we find a monetizing stream? So, back
in the nineties they decided that for every cassette people bought, fifteen, twenty cents would go to an artists’ fund. That was included in the CDs because people were burning lots of CDs, but nobody is using those technologies any more. So the question is, where do we go to next level? I actually decided to bring this motion forward not so much because I’m interested in the technicalities of a levy or not, but because what’s missing from the conversation on copyright is two
important issues. One is, how are we going to access works, that’s the Fair Dealing, and how are we going to compensate artists? Up ’til now the debate has been lock down or the libertarian digital new world where everything should be free, but lost among those two poles is the issue that music is being copied, art is being traded, and nobody’s getting paid. So either we lock down and litigate, or we have to start looking at means to compensate. So I decided I would kick the ball up the field and see what happened.

[03:42] JB: And I guess we should frame it all with that in mind because this is a Private Member’s Bill and it’s unlikely this is going to become law. But this is a proposal you put forth and you say that it’s been missing from the conversation this question of compensation but in fact, this levy has existed, as you say, on things like blank CDs for ten years, 180 million dollars I think is the figure that’s been collected for artists. So this isn’t a new idea, you’re talking about extending it away from these CDs that nobody uses any more to things like iPods. So, what would it cost if this went through? I mean this is what you’re proposing, so what would it cost for a 64 Gigabyte iPod which is what they’re selling now.

[04:13] CA: Well, this is a very interesting thing. James Moore was out with his Twitter account immediately denouncing this killer tax, we’ll fight the tax to the death, and you know, no taxation without digital representation, or some, some crazy talk. And they threw out this figure of 75 dollars. What was brought before the copyright board in 2005 was anywhere from two dollars for small MP3 player might hold five, six hundred songs, a thousand songs, up to about 20 dollars. So that’s the realm of what’s out there. I think, when you talk about monetizing, finding a monetizing model that works, at the end of the day there’s going to be that tipping point. The consumers aren’t going to pay an extraordinary amount to access their music. But if it’s a reasonable fee, if it’s a fee you don’t really notice on top of it, I think it goes to the areas where we need to start looking at, so the levy already exists, and it has been in place. It’s been part of Canadian copyright law for some time. So I figured, well, rather than trying to invent a new form of compensation there’s one out there, let’s get the discussion on compensation going by saying we’re going to need to update this or it’s going to fall by the wayside.

[05:22] JB: OK, but just to get the brass tacks of this, uh, they are bandying about figures like 75 dollars, and then if it is based on the Gigabyte storage of the device, we’re talking about, we’re in an era now where they’re making 100 dollar drives that can hold a Terabyte of data. So if the levy is tied to the storage space we’re, we could get up there into the hundreds for this levy. But you’re saying it’s not. You’re saying we’re talking about a maximum 20 dollars.

[05:44] CA: This is, this is what was brought forward. And again, these are the fights that go back to the copyright board. Um, the 75 dollar figure is the one the Tories have been bandying about, it wasn’t in any of the proposals previously, uh, so we were, we were looking in the area two to 20 dollars. But again, we gotta get to the bigger issue. It’s all well and good to say we’re going to have access, it’s all well and good for the lobbyist to demand lockdown, but it’s not realistic. So how are we going to find a new way forward. And I think that’t the conversation we could have in Canada. We could actually move towards a progressive copyright model where we’re not suing single moms for their homes. But if we’re not suing single moms for their homes we have to find some other sources of revenue to compensate for the music that’s being traded.

[06:30] JB: But this isn’t an abstract converstation. We have the
example of the last ten years of the CD blank media copying levy to look at. And how successful do you feel that has been in compensating artists for their work as basically trying to find a way to make up for whatever revenue is lost in lost CD sales?

[06:47] CA: Well, to be quite clear, nothing is going to make up for the loss of the immense music that’s been trafficked. But it never was intended in the original levy was to say, listen, a part of the stream we will compensate for. And I think the artists have recognized and, and you know, a lot of Canadian bands are really into the new digital models that are out there, but I’ve been speaking to them about the levy, and they said, listen, you know, it’s not perfect, but we’re starting count more and more on this revenue because what else we have? We’re down to T-shirt sales to keep going in some areas.

[07:20] JB: The CPCC has said before that artists need this to survive and this has been one of the biggest sources of their revenue. Howard Knopf had a look at the numbers, and he broke it down and estimated that if every artist who got something out of this got an equal amount, the average is something like 160 dollars a year. But of course, they don’t all get an equal amount. It’s based on sales figures, and it’s based on FM radio play. So you find a situation where a band like U2 might actually do very well from this blank media levy, but a band like your old band, who might get more play on college radio and the sales are being done through little shops that don’t necessarily make a dent in the soundscape, that don’t even get counted, so it’s an odd situation where it’s entirely possible that a band like yours might have gotten 80 bucks a year, and Canadians are paying Dave Matthews very time they buy a blank CD.

[08:09] CA: Well, I think the reality with copyright is, the people who have hit songs have always done well. People who’ve had number one songs can build a home with it. And the rest of us continue to struggle in grimy bars. That’s the reality of copyright. It’s not a socialist utopian system. But I can tell you from having tried to feed my family on copyright, and it is pretty damn hard to feed a bunch of kids on, on opyright cheques. You know, artists rely on a variety of streams, the SOCAN stream, radio play, does, does the levy need to be more accountable? Perhaps, but even when you’re talking about artists who might get fifteen hundred dollars from that levy, that can make the difference between going back to the studio or not going back to the studio. That’s how enuous we are right now for so many Canadian artists in, in the music business.

[08:58] JB: Here’s a problem that a lot of people have with this. There’s an assumption that is made that music copying is what this is going to be used for. I have used mini-disks for years. That’s what we used when we went on the field to do radio work. We go through these things like crazy. And every time I bought a mini-disk I was paying, I don’t know, 25 or 28 cents, a lot of which went to, you know, Bono. Canadians I think really care about this basic concept of fairness. And in an era where devices are not so specific as that I think people just have a basic problem with the assumption that they’re going to be using any media to copy music when they may not be using it for that at all.

[09:32] CA: Well, one of the funny things that’s happened over the last week is I never met so many digital virgins in my life. Oh, I’ve never done that. Never me. I’ve got people telling me I don’t use my MP3 player to listen to copyrighted music, I listen to other things. It’s like well, what, I wonder which, I’d love to find out what you’re listening to if you’re not listening to copyrighted music. The reality of the levy is to say, listen, it’s not about every single copy is, is covering off the loss of a song. It’s saying here’s probably the only place we can find a revenue stream. It’s a small revenue stream, but everybody trades music. I trade music, my kids trade music, I buy music, I trade copies with my kids, my friends, it’s going on. So when the last week I’ve had everyone e-mailing me, Facebooking me, saying I’ve never traded songs so I shouldn’t have to pay, well, sort of like, there’s a friend artist said to me the other day, said well, I know people who don’t have kids they still have to pay into the public education system. Either we’re going to create a system that tries to find a means to compensate for the music, or we’re going to go to the U.S. model, or the European model of lockdown and litigation, and I don’t think that those are progressive models, so I think a couple of bucks on my iPod might be a good solution. It might, there might be a better solution out there, but we need to start having that conversation. And we need to have it now.

[10:52] JB: Are those the only two options? I mean, that conversation, how do musicians get paid is being had by no-one more passionately than musicians who are finding all kinds of creative ways to get paid in this new paradigm. I guess what I’m asking is, is this a problem that government can fix? I mean, we’re, we’re taking about a, such a fast moving area with technology, I think we’re only a year or two away from a point where it’s not even going to be about solid state hard drives in our pockets, but you know, your storage is going to be in the cloud, and your device is going to get it through the Internet, so you know, taxing a storage device won’t even make sense in a matter of months, potentially.

[11:25] CA: Well, I, again, I made the decision to raise issue of the levy because I think the bigger philosophical discussion has to happen. And people are looking to government to make legislative changes that could have profound implications, and I find everybody on all sides of the copyright debate tend to speak in apocalyptic language, and everybody on the other side is either the evil corporate enemy, or the evil bandit thieves, some third-world booty criminal bazaar. None of that I think at this point is helpful. I’m hoping we’re ready to have the adult conversation on copyright and you’re right, technology is changing a lot. If we brought copyright legislation in five years ago I think, I know the push for politicians was to try and pretend this was 1996 and push back the clock. Clock’s not going back. Is the levy a stop-gap measure? Probably is. But we’re not having the conversation about how artists should be paid. I know artists who are doing phenomenally creative stuff, Canadian artists perhaps more than any other group of musicians in the world, I think, have taken the Internet by force because our markets are small, because it’s so hard to travel. I mean I’ve travelled between Winnipeg and Regina and Calgary, and know how hard it is to maintain those markets. But that being said, it doesn’t compensate for the loss of music when you put twenty or thirty thousand dollars into a recording and people are making copies, you should be able to get your share.

[12:49] JB: We may never agree on this, but the idea that when an industry shift and things move around they’re not going to compensate exactly. The new ways of making money are not going to immediately compensate for what was lost. I think traditionally they’ve ususally ultimately exceeded the old way, in terms of opportunities that technology has brought out, what VHS brought to the movie inudstry. But in the short termpeople suffer, and it seems like you’re suggesting a greater role for government and creating a stop-gap measure to ameliorate that suffering.

[13:16] CA: People are looking to government right now to update our copyright legislation, and people are suggesting a lockdown, they’re suggesting searching your iPod at the airports, they’re suggesting forcing your ISP to snoop on you so that whatever you download you get the three strikes provision and you’re out. That’s where we’re going unless we can begin to say, no, the role of government is to find a way to allow access but if we’re allowing access we’re also going to have to allow something for copyrighted works. And as you said in terms of the uh, short term business models change, and I’m fully aware of what the roller piano did, and how it was a threat to musicians, and how the record player was a threat to musicians, and then radio was a threat to the record companies, I mean we went on and on and on, and each time we change. But we’re not in a short period, we’re in a very long dramatic transformation of every level of industry and the reality is, and musicians fully know this more than anyone, they’re never going to be compensated fully for what’s going on out there. They’re not expecting to be. But they’re saying there has to be some revenue stream so it’s either on the levy, it’s either going to be in, in the form of something else, or it’s giong to be in the form of the coporate, uh, lockdown, and I don’t want to go down that road.

[14:30] JB: I guess one concern I have is that, uh, like you’ve said a couple of times, the bigger question is what we’re going to do with copyright on a larger scale in this county. And I think there are some problems with the fairness of this levy, and I hope they don’t obscure whatever, uh, argument for common sense is being made in that larger question. Let’s, let’s, let’s talk about that larger question, let’s talk about Fair Dealing itself. We cover all aspects of copyright reform on this show. The parody exception is of particular interest to me, andjust bring listeners up to speed on this, Fair Use in the United States, of course, allows for exceptions to copyright when you’re making fun of stuff. And Jon Stewart can play clips of what’s happening in the Senate if he’s making fun of it. We have an exception under Fair Dealing in Canada for news coverage and criticism. We don’t have one for parody, for satire. Is that covered in this new approach to Fair Dealing that you’re proposing?

[15:22] CA: Well, the uh, the changes actually sort of broaden it so that there’s the principle of Fair Dealing because that, it’s been recognized by the Supreme Court, as the user has a right to Fair Dealing but right now it’s on a case by case basis. You have to prove it every time. We actually have in the Copyright Act of Canada 1997 that they made it legal to write on an easel with a marker if you were in a classroom. And it’s actually says that.

[15:49] JB: And they say we’re lax on copyright, that has to be written down.

[15:51] CA: I, I think we show how just, uh, retentive we are on them. Again, the Fair Dealing motion, I wasn’t too concerned about exactly how the wording was going to be. I looked around for what good models were out there, and it’s general to allow for criticism, to allow for research, to allow for parody, because tying it with the levy is to say, listen, on the last few rounds of copyright you guys have missed
out key elements, so here we are, I’m putting it out, here’s the flag, everyone can start shooting at it now. But we need to have the Fair Dealing discussion at the same time we’re talking about compensation.

[16:22] JB: Let’s talk about Minister Moore and Minister Clement. You’re the NDP’s copyright critic, so it’s your job to critise the Conservative’s approach to copyright. There is a conception, and, you know, I feel that these guys get it more than the last guy. And that we’re better off with Moore and Clement than we were were with Prentice. Do you agree?

[16:46] CA: Well, I mean, Jim Prentice is from my home town, so I have to always say something nice about him, but, um, Bill C61 was a dog’s breakfast of trying to find rules and exemptions and it was all again making the digital lock sacrosanct so you could not under any circumstance break a digital lock. I find that the Tories live in a nuance-free zone. They’re either really tough on crime, or their new thing is they’re tax fighters. So it depends on what hat they’re wearing. So the last time they were wearing the hat it was tough on crime. We’ve got to stop these kids from breaking in and stealing little old ladies’ cassettes. [laughs] Digital product. What I find funny with Clement and Moore this last week, um, in terms of the response to me, was I found it was a little juvenile. I mean, here I am in the fourth party putting out a Private Member’s Bill that everybody knows isn’t going to be debated, and there’s Jimmy with his tweet saying death to taxes, we’ll fight taxes, and uh, and I was thinking this is amazing in a way, uh, he probably inadvertently went further than the Pirate Party in Sweden has ever gone in that copyright is a tax that has to be fought to the death. So I don’t know if he thought that through, but it’s uh, again I’m encouraging Tony and James to have a, let’s put down the Tory rhetoric and war machine for a second and discuss the issue.

[18:06] JB: I don’t mean to keep harping on this, but didn’t you handthem that one? I mean, that’s a crowd pleaser every time, you know. That they’re the guys that are trying to stop the, the NDP from taxing your iPod. In all of your criticism of them up to date you’ve got to be the guy arguing common sense and appealing in that basic level to kind of, you know, Joe Public, and, and, you know, you kind of gave them like a freebie, I think there’s a reason why they seized upon that bill of yours.

[18:28] CA: Well, I actually think it was dumbing it down to an even lower level than we’ve been in the past, where I mean, I’ve alwaysspoken about the need to represent the public interest. But when the Conservatives are saying, listen, we already have government programs for artists, so we’re not going to, we hate taxes. Are they saying that because we have the Canada Council means you can do whatever you want, downloading whatever you, you think. I mean, that’s, that’s a very libertarian argument that the Conservatives on the other hand with their tough on crime approach wouldn’t support. And so sure, they want to get the one up on me, but it’s not the level of debate we need on this. We’ve got to get serious about this. I’d like to sit down with Tony Clement, sat down with him a number of times, talked about copyright, but I want to know that at the end of the day they’re looking at the big picture and I’m never convinced with these guys that they are, but I’m always optimistic that somebody after all these years is going to see common sense and figure we’ve got to start moving forward instead of trying to go back.

[19:30] JB: Do they get it, at least? I mean, it seemed like Minister Prentice when he was in charge of this didn’t have a basic understanding of the technology itself. And Moore has, has made a big show of putting an iPod on his web page and he tweets and, uh, he seems to be advertising the fact that they are much more digitally literate than their predecessor. Do you get that sense?

[19:48] CA: Well, I mean they’re, they’re certainly putting on a big show. I mean, James is the iPod minister, he’s the guy who can say everything he knows about the world in 140 characters. So that’s, that apparently makes you on Parliament Hill really hot and smart. But at the same time we have the government over in Seoul negotiating on ACTA, provisions that would completely undermine Canada’s right to establish new copyrights. So what is it, boys? Are you guys out there with your 10,000 songs on your iPods fighting for digital rights and death to taxes, or are you over in the ACTA negotiations, supporting some very regressive moves that could really undermine the depth, development digital economy. I’d like them to come clean with this, and say where they’re going in terms of digital planning and where they’re going to go with legislation.

[20:34] JB: Is it possible they don’t even know? Is it possible that while they were trying to kind of push forward the ball on copyright and take these consultations into a new bill, that the whole question got swiped from them by ACTA and, I guess, handed over to Peter van Loan?

[20:47] CA: I think very my, my real concern is that there are two plays going on, as you point out. One is they, they realize that bill C61 they were way off base, nobody bought into Bill C61. It was DOA the day it was announced. So they went and they did this slap-dash tour across Canada and they heard people are active, people are passionate, everybody’s involved in copyright. So they’ve been working on how to make these provisions. My sense is they’re probably going to cool down a bit on the digital locks. Uh, there may be something in there for FairDealing. I don’t know what they’re going to do in terms of notice and notice, or notice and takedown. But, the PMO has another agenda as well, which is, we have to look very close to their U.S. allies, and the U.S. trade lobby puts enormous pressure on countries. Especially Canada, because they see us as the fifty-first state, to fall in line with the DMCA style legislation. So, I feel there is a bit of a schizophrenic movement, and I don’t think the Conservatives are really sure yet where they’re going to come down. The bill’s supposed to come down this, before summer, but I’ve heard that so many times that I’ll, I’ll believe it when I see it.

[21:50] JB: And, where do you think ACTA is going? I mean, just this week the entire document was leaked, it’s funny how they’re trying to lock down the world’s digital usage and they can’t lock down their own legislation. Are the fears about this justified? Is this going to be something Canada signs and if Canada signs it, is it going to get ratified into law?

[21:09] CA: I’m very disturbed about ACTA because I feel if you’re going to negotiate international treaties like WIPO you have to have the NGOs there, you have to have transparency. How many rounds of ACTA have we gone through and they’ve tried to keep it from being transparent? Whenever you’re hiding something, whenever you’re doing it behind closed doors, that tells you, the public, that they’re people who are goes behind closed doors means do not want to be seen. And I think it’s the U.S. entertainment lobby is driving this, they’re trying to get as far as they can before they get smoked out. I love what the European activists called it, the, the vampire solution, that is, we start to shine light on them until wither up and they all have to crawl back to their corporate holes. But there are a number of very disturbing potential provisions in ACTA and it would have profound implications for Canada’s training abilities if the Europeans sign on to something, the Americans sign on to something, and we’re trying to chart our own way. They can put enormous pressure on us at that point. That being said, I think ACTA has hit a few serious holes and, um, I feel the more the public get involved, the more ACTA is either going to have to change or it’s going to be made irrelevant.

[23:18] JB: Charlie Angus, thank you for finding the time to talk to me today.

[23:21] CA: Thanks a lot for having me on.

[23:22] [theme music]

[23:25] JB: Search Engine is produced by me, and a community of listeners who are fully aware of what the roller piano did. E-mail me with freelance pitches and story tips at jesse@jessebrown.ca. The show’s log is at tvo.org/searchengine and I’m on Twitter @jessebrown. This show is released with a Creative Commons license so you don’t need a parody exemption to make fun of it, but you will be hurting my feelings. Quick note about the video podcast I keep promising you. It’s done! It’s been done for a while. I think it’s our best one yet. But there are some editorial complications and I’m doing everything I can to get it online as soon as I can. The next audio podcast will be up first thing Tuesday morning.

[24:10] [music fades]

[24:16] [end]

Posted in Big media, copyright, filesharing, Internet, Jesse Brown's Search Engine, music | 2 Comments »

When Headlines Go Bad

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 9th December 2009

Bad Headline: GWAVA Releases Version 3.1 of its Novell GroupWise Disaster
Bad Headline: GWAVA Releases Version 3.1 of its Novell GroupWise Disaster

Newspaper editors have it easy — whatever they write, the printers print. On the Internet it’s not that easy. On the Internet, Atom/RSS feeds of articles mean that editors can’t control the presentation on the reader’s computer. That makes it all the more important to craft headlines so that they can’t be misconstrued, or at least so that they can be truncated safely.

The headline I read was GWAVA Releases Version 3.1 of its Novell GroupWise Disaster, which doesn’t sound like an appealing product worth buying. GWAVA’s full headline was GWAVA Releases Version 3.1 of its Novell GroupWise Disaster Recovery Product. Sadly, even the headline on GWAVA’s web site is mangled, running the main headline into the secondary headline:

Even full headlines have problems of their own
Even full headlines have problems of their own

"Too Cool To Do Drugs" pencil
Sharpen this pencil, I double-dog dare ya!

Pencil manufacturers should take note also: As the Too Cool To Do Drugs pencil is sharpened, the message transforms to Cool To Do Drugs, the semi-Hamlettian To Do Drugs, eventually to just Do Drugs and finally the non-judgmental declaration Drugs. Just the kind of thing that will go over well at school.

–Bob.

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Posted in groupwise, Internet, newspapers, Style | Comments Off on When Headlines Go Bad

 
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